Category Archives: Bokashi stories

Pop-up gardening in Christchurch

Christchurch, the third-biggest city in New Zealand, has had a terrible time the last years. They got hit with a huge earthquake in 2010, an even more traumatic one in 2011, and then the quakes and uncertainty just kept coming. The city centre has long been razed but the go-ahead for new building hasn’t really come until recently.

Meanwhile, life goes on. A tough call, but it does.

We were in Christchurch recently visiting our colleagues at EMNZ and ZingBokashi, they’re doing a great work and have been for many years. (And when the earthquake damage was at it’s worst they were out there with truckloads of EM, spraying against smell and potential disease).

They tipped us about the great Agropolis community garden right in the heart of town. It’s a true pop-up affair, the signs are up for the current property to be sold, then I assume they’ll move on to a new spot yet again.

It’s a great little garden. Truly inspiring to see the spirit behind it, hanging in even when it’s tough, and creating a little spot of beauty and good health in the midst of what is, honestly, a traumatized city centre with a lot of building ahead of it.

The garden is sponsored in part by our EM colleagues. Bokashi and EM are used in the garden beds. Everything is very pragmatic here, they’ve made a great soil factory out of an old pallet-based water tank. (I’m sure these things have a name, just not sure what it is!)

There’s a productive greenhouse (plastic tunnel style) on site, information about when the next work session is, a practical watering system round the boxes and a great design on the garden beds. Lots of wooden shipping pallets here!

Anyhow, enjoy the pictures! Hope you’ll be inspired to pass them on to a community garden you know of.

You don’t need an earthquake to get this to happen!

 

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Fresh and healthy herbs and veggies. You quickly forget what once was…

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…until you look up at the backdrop.

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Smart use of shipping pallets.

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Yep. It works!

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Coffee sacks. Not an idea I’d ever thought of. But then again, there’s a coffee roasters across the street…

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Giant size bokashi bin.

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Which is mixed with soil in this highly-pragmatic soil factory.

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Fresh and healthy all right.

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Smart use of stacked plastic crates with bokashi soil.

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The for sale sign is up. The nature of the best for pop-up community gardens.

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Just a practical detail from the watering system.

 

 

 

Bokashi a hit in restaurants and offices in New Zealand

Just a few years ago Bokashi was something that people quietly did in their homes and back yards. A bit embarrassing to discuss it with the neighbors, bit of a hippy warning.

Now it’s really gone mainstream and can be found in the best of restaurants and the most professional of offices. This film from New Zealand, where Bokashi has been building popularity and credibility for nearly 20 years now, is inspiring.

The Mudbrick vineyard and restaurant on Waiheke is no small place — lots of stars, stunning location and a fabulous kitchen garden. Would go there in a minute if I could! But even though their wines are no doubt brilliant, the thing that impresses me is that they’ve got it. They have created a food loop.

Each chef has a bucket for food scraps, no big deal. When the work is done the buckets are taken out to ferment in barrels and ultimately dug back down into the kitchen garden. When you see it on a film like this it all looks so, well, obvious. And they haven’t made it any more complicated than it needs to be. Just a whole lot of kiwi common sense combined with wanting the best possible soil for their veggies.

That the vineyard is located on an island (in the Hauraki Gulf, just outside Auckland where I grew up) means it makes even more sense. Rubbish disposal on any island is difficult, so setting up a food loop in this way is logical, and I would imagine economical.

Unfortunately not all of us have a vineyard to run, so the office stories are more likely closer to home. How hard is it, really, when you think about it? Every office has it’s food waste, and here in the film they make it look pretty easy. Brilliant to see how people think it’s cool to be going home from work these days with a bucket of bokashi to dig into the veggie patch at home. The food loop strikes again!

Admittedly, New Zealand has  a pretty nice climate. Even in the cold south the ground rarely freezes, in the north you can grow veggies year round. Not tropical but for those of us living in Northern Europe (I’m in Sweden even if I grew up in New Zealand), it looks pretty comfortable.

So we have to be innovative.

Look for new ways of doing big scale bokashi. After all, when spring comes we need every bit of fertilizer we can get our hands on so even if the process involves a bit of winter storage it pays off big time when the spring comes.

My current best suggestion for winter storage would be to store bokashi in bottomless barrels on-site in the garden. Something we could all have a go at testing and compare notes? Obviously it needs to ferment indoors for a couple of weeks. But then to drop the fermented bokashi into a barrel with a good lid isn’t hard work. Line up the bottomless barrels on the land that needs fertilizing the best then let them fill up over the winter.

When the spring warmth comes the microbes, worms and other critters will spring into action. They’ll work the nutrients down into the soil and probably make a faster start on the gardening than you will. When the time comes to prepare the land, you can remove the barrel, dig down the ready and not-quite-so-ready bokashi into the soil and you’re ready to go.

Not a lot of carrying and lifting there. And a great way of making a food loop small or big that stretches over the winter.

Worth giving it a go? Let us know if you’ve got any good ideas on the subject!

/Jenny

ps the photo below is a 120 liter bokashi bin we’re currently testing here in Sweden in an urban gardening project, available from Agriton in Holland. It’s a bit hard to see, but it has a tap for draining off bokashi fluid, a metal grid in the bottom for separating the solids and liquids, and a pretty airtight lid with a good catch. Will let you know how it goes!

Photo: Jenny Harlen

Just found an EM Teachers’ Manual

Just stumbled across this great guide to using Bokashi and EM in schools. A 37-page manual aimed at teachers to help start up a Bokashi-based composting project in the classroom. Maybe not everything is relevant to where you live, but it’s something I haven’t seen before and gives you a lot of ideas for practical implementation along with the background information to make the process credible. Some of the environmental facts would need updating, and obviously made relevant to whatever part of the world you’re in.

A great start though, don’t you think? If you’ve seen anything else along these lines, please post a comment. The more we can share this type of information the better.

Have you been involved in running a school project using Bokashi and EM? What worked well? What would you have differently? What did the kids think about it all? Love to hear!

Download the manual here>>
http://www.emhawaii.com/upload/EMTeachersManual051005.pdf

Bokashi instead of chemicals in El Salvador

ElSalvador

Interesting. Inspiring. And a positive boost to the hope account.

After years of hard-hitting chemical usage, local communities in El Salvador are going green. Out with Monsanto and its “free” seeds, in with EM and Bokashi.

This article by Brad Nahill takes us into the world of local farmers who are fed up. The “green revolution” that’s been running in El Salvator over the past half-century has left fields drained of nutrition and farmers drained of their health and resources. The agricultural boom years have been good to the landowners and commercial operators. It has left local farmers dirt poor and wanting to do things differently from now on.

Bascially, they’re going organic. Working with large-scale Bokashi compost using the materials they have on hand: sugar cane waste, rice husks and cow manure. Diversifying the crops that they grow. Building a seed bank. Helping one another.

Have a read. This, I promise, will leave you inspired!

Link:
http://www.care2.com/causes/a-new-agricultural-revolution-takes-root-in-el-salvador.html

Church + bokashi = food for people who need it.


(DNAinfo/Tuan Nguyen()

Just posted this on our facebook page but thought it was so inspiring I should post it here as well. A church in Harlem has taken their precious inner city land and made a farm out of it. They’re feeding their parishioners with healthy, home grown food from their new veggie patch. Just watch the film here, it’s done with love and compassion. Now this is what a church can really add to the world!

Because their land is polluted and hardly farming land (surprise!) they’ve built raised beds to grow their veggie beds. Probably the way to go regardless of what you have under your feet, it’s a much easier work height, lot less weeding, drains well and warms up easily. And looks beautiful.

They haven’t made a lot of fuss about it in the article but they are using Bokashi in the garden. Makes perfect sense really. I have no idea where they’re sourcing their food waste but the possibilities are endless when the whole project is part of a community-based program.

A lot of people are working on many fronts to start up urban growing projects, often on abandoned lots or in community parks. I’ve never seen a churchyard used in this way before and it’s obviously the perfect hand-in-hand solution. Hope we get to see a lot more of it!!

/Jenny

http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120814/west-harlem/st-marys-urban-farm-reclaims-land-feed-west-harlem-parish

Bokashi goes luxury in Krabi

No, it’s the Bokashi going luxury, not us. Unfortunately.

This is an article I pulled out of a recent magazine from Thai Airways. They’re promoting this (admittedly gorgeous) resort in Krabi but the interesting thing is that Bokashi and EM are featured in the article as part of the resorts greener than green profile.

While maintaining its green environment, the staff has been trained in eco-friendly measures. Reduction of chemical usage is a top priority. To this end, the in-house fertilizer from organic waste is fermented to produce “Effective Microorganisms (EM)” used as a substitute for chemical fertilizer to nourish the garden.

Yes!!!

Not that I think for a minute that all the flying miles spent on traveling to an eco-resort is in any way justified. But you have to admit it’s a cool thing to see EM featured in this way and becoming mainstream. The more of this we see the better!

Gardening guru Alys Fowler on Bokashi.

I guess everyone has heard about Alys Fowler except me.

I came across this article she wrote for the Guardian a few weeks ago and it seemed to me a pretty good endorsement by someone who really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to gardening. She has quite an interesting life story — urban gardening in Manhattan, tv gardener for the BBC and into all sorts of projects and books on sustainable gardening and self-sufficient living.

Here’s the article:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/27/bokashi-bin-compost-alys-fowler?newsfeed=true

And here’s the Wikipedia link with the back story:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alys_Fowler

Wouldn’t mind a couple of her books! Although that would probably just start me off on more projects than I need right at the moment 🙂